It’s matchday 14 in the Premier League, and the league is about to enter a busy festive schedule as teams gear up for a hectic run of games throughout December. Brighton and Hove Albion start their December with a visit to Stamford Bridge to face Mauricio Pochettino’s Chelsea. Roberto De Zerbi’s men secured their progress to the next round of the Europa League with a 1-0 win over AEK Athens, thanks to a solitary goal by Joao Pedro, which was enough to clinch all 3 points. They currently sit 8th in the league with 22 points and were victorious last weekend against Nottingham Forest. The Seagulls managed to defend a 3-2 lead after playing the last 15 minutes with 10 men due to Lewis Dunk being sent off. De Zerbi’s men have won just 1 of their last 5 games and have struggled to find consistency in picking up results. The win away to Forest was their first after three consecutive draws. After starting the season on a high, the Seagulls find themselves 4 points off the top 4 and have an opportunity to narrow that gap to just a point with a win against the Blues.
On the other hand, Mauricio Pochettino’s men were humbled 4-1 against a ruthless Newcastle United side that completely outplayed the Blues physically and tactically last weekend. The Blues failed to create chances, thanks to the excellent Newcastle low block, and managed to score from a set piece. The defeat places Chelsea in 10th place with 16 points, trailing 12 points behind Spurs, who are 4th in the table. With just one league win in their last 5 matches, Pochettino and Co. will have to buckle up and start building momentum, as their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League next season are slowly fading away with the teams at the top of the table consistently winning games
When and Where?
Date: 3rd December, 2023
Time: 14:00 HRS GMT
Venue: Stamford Bridge
Referee: Craig Pawson
Assistants: Marc Perry, Steve Meredith
Fourth official: Michael Salisbury
VAR: Jarred Gillett
Assistant VAR: Sian Massey-Ellis
Chelsea have received some positive injury news, with Christopher Nkunku expected to be part of the squad after the Frenchman trained with the first team this week. Although it is unlikely he will start the game, Nkunku’s return will be a significant boost for Pochettino, especially as he comes back ahead of a busy festive schedule.
Romeo Lavia and Wesley Fofana are still continuing their recovery from injuries and will be unavailable. Carney Chukwuemeka, Trevoh Chalobah, and Ben Chilwell also remain unavailable until next year as they nurse their long-term injuries. A sending-off in the last game means club captain Reece James is suspended for the match against Brighton, along with Marc Cucurella, who picked up his 5th yellow card of the season. Malo Gusto is expected to replace James, with Colwill shifting to the left-back position.
Brighton rested their key first-team players during the midweek Europa League clash, with Mitoma, Ferguson, and Gilmour all subbed off to keep them fresh ahead of the visit to West London. De Zerbi is facing an injury crisis at the club, having already lost Pervis Estupinian, Julio Enciso, Tariq Lamptey, Ansu Fati, Danny Welbeck, and Solly March to injuries. Mahmoud Dahoud will serve his suspension for a red card, meaning the new summer signing will be unavailable alongside Adam Webster, who is a doubt after picking up a knock.
Chelsea performed poorly in their game at Tyneside last weekend, leaving Pochettino helpless in the stands as he served a touchline ban after picking up three yellow cards. Eddie Howe and his team outclassed the Blues with their intense pressing and deep low block, catching Chelsea off guard. It’s a game Pochettino will want to forget, and he must now be cautious of Brighton’s similar tactical style of play, requiring the Blues to find effective ways of playing against such opponents.
The five-man Newcastle midfield, with Anthony Gordon and Miguel Almiron dropping behind to support, posed a significant challenge for the Chelsea midfield trio of Gallagher, Caicedo, and Enzo, leaving them outnumbered. Cole Palmer had to drop into the midfield to occupy the spaces between the lines and provide a passing option, but this left the Blues with no attacking player on the right wing to challenge the Newcastle defense, who were defending in a narrow shape. Reece James’ sending off was the final blow for Chelsea, summarizing their disappointing performance as the Englishman picked up two avoidable yellow cards.
Pochettino now faces a decision between deploying Palmer as a no.10 behind the striker and using Mudryk/Madueke on the wings by sacrificing the hardworking Conor Gallagher or playing Palmer as a false 9 upfront and sacrificing Nicolas Jackson. This decision is particularly difficult against a team like Brighton, who play with an intense pressing style and aim to cramp up the midfield to force opponents to play wide.
De Zerbi is well aware of Chelsea’s struggle to break down teams with a low block and plans to use the same strategy to exploit Pochettino’s men. The pace of Adingra and Mitoma on counter-attacks will be a real asset for the Italian to use and exploit the Chelsea defense, which has looked shaky in recent games, conceding 9 goals in the last 3 matches.
With both teams vying for Champions League qualification, the match promises to be a great tactical battle. De Zerbi’s men are more than capable of causing a major upset against the league’s big teams, and Pochettino’s men cannot afford to lose any more ground in their race for European football next season.
The Englishman found the scoresheet once again, showcasing his prowess with a wonderful free-kick goal that drew the Blues level before things took a downturn in the second half. With 5 goals and 1 assist in 13 league appearances for the Blues, the 28-year-old seems to have found his form, benefiting from Pochettino’s system that aligns well with his playstyle after a disappointing first season. His ability to take on defenders one-on-one and create chances will be crucial, especially against a Brighton side expected to sit deep and defend.
After a season plagued by injuries, Mitoma is back to full fitness and poised to play a crucial role for the Seagulls against the Blues. The Japanese has scored three goals and provided five assists in 17 appearances across all competitions, aiming to return to the exceptional form he displayed last season. Despite a slight dip in end product this season, Mitoma remains a creative force, contributing to 40 shot-creating actions for the Seagulls in the league. This highlights the significant creative impact he brings to De Zerbi’s attacking strategies. With the Blues facing defensive uncertainties, lacking a natural left back with Chilwell and Cucurella unavailable, Mitoma sees a prime opportunity to wreak havoc on the left side of Chelsea’s defense. De Zerbi and his team hope their Asian superstar rediscovers his form, and the upcoming game provides an opportune moment for Mitoma to showcase his abilities.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1) – Sanchez, Gusto, Disasi, Badiashile, Colwill, Caicedo, Enzo, Madueke, Palmer, Mudryk, Sterling
Brighton (4-2-3-1) – Verbruggen, Veltmen, Van Hecke, Igor, Hinshelwood, Gilmour, Gross, Mitoma, Ferguson, Adingra, Pedro